“What Happens to Me When I Die?”
By Bruce Alan Danford, LLM (10/3/11)

Will my wishes as to what happens to my body be respected when I die? Many of us have strong feelings about whether we wish to be buried, be cremated, or have some other disposition made of our bodies once we die. Another frequent concern is what ceremonial arrangements will be performed after our death and how will we make sure our wishes for these are carried out?

Fortunately, the Colorado Legislature recognized the concerns of its citizens and passed the Disposition of Last Remains Act. This Act can be found in Colorado Revised Stats § 15-19-101 through § 15-19-109. The Colorado Legislature declared that:

(a) A competent adult individual has the right and power to direct the disposition of his or her remains after death and should be protected from interested persons who may try to impose their wishes regarding such disposition contrary to the deceased’s desires.

(b) A statute that determines priority of individuals to direct the disposition of a decedent’s remains is necessary if the decedent fails to direct such disposition or fails to provide the resources necessary to carry out such disposition or if a dispute arises between interested persons regarding such disposition.

(c) The right to direct the disposition of one’s remains must be stated in writing to better protect a third party who relies in good faith on such decisions.
Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-19-102

In summary, the law states that an adult can make a written declaration to include their wishes as to how they want their body to be disposed of and what ceremonial rites they want to occur after they pass away. The declaration must be followed but only if the declarant has provided the resources to carry out their wishes. Many times in a Last Will and Testament there will be a clause providing for funeral and burial arrangements.

What if a person does not create a sufficient declaration prior to their death? In that event, the right to control the disposition of your remains is vested in the following persons, in the following order:

(1) Either the appointed personal representative or special administrator of the decedent’s estate if such person has been appointed;

(2) The surviving spouse;

(3) The majority of surviving adult children;

(4) A majority of the surviving parents;

(5) A majority of the surviving adult siblings;

(6) Any person who is willing to assume legal and financial responsibility for the remains .

See Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-19-106.

To make sure your wishes are respected as to the disposition of your last remains and the ceremonial arrangements you want for yourself, you should put your wishes in writing. I have attached a copy of the current form of Declaration approved for use in Colorado. The form set forth below is not exclusive, and a person may use another form of declaration if the wording of the form complies substantially with this form, the form is properly completed, and the form is in writing, dated, and signed by the declarant.

A declaration may be witnessed or notarized by at least one person who attests that he or she was present when the document was signed by the declarant but does need to be either witnessed or notarized. A declaration may be revoked by the declarant in writing or by burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying the declaration with the intent to revoke it. A subsequent divorce, dissolution of marriage, annulment of marriage, or legal separation between the declarant and their spouse automatically revokes a delegation to the declarant’s spouse to direct the disposition of the declarant’s last remains or ceremonies after the declarant’s death.

This article is not meant to be construed as legal advice and is meant for educational and information purposes only. The information is not legal advice or a particular legal opinion. The information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship between The Law Firm of Bruce Alan Danford, LLC and you. The law changes very rapidly and, accordingly, we do not guarantee that any information contained hereto is accurate and up to date other than the revised date. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case and the tools and information provided to you may not be an appropriate fit in your case. Nothing that you read or is provided on this web site should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel. It is highly recommended that anyone seeking to create a Declaration should consult with an attorney.